For the first time in the just shy of 16 years that there have been four of us, tonight all four of us will be sleeping under different roofs, in different cities. It's a very strange feeling. Elder daughter is having what I hope is that magical summer after freshman year. It seems to involve plastic flamingos and complaining about housemates who don't clean, so it sounds perfect. She's not far away, but she's not at home. Younger daughter is off at smartycamp, though it turns out to be supersmartycamp, where young men and women who are super-serious about becoming doctors are doing things like watching knee replacement surgeries, touring hospitals, and discussing medical ethics. This may put ideas in her head. I'll be laying my idea-free head down in the rough vicinity of Valley Forge, which suddenly is becoming another of my haunts, though the actual name of the town I'm staying in is never abundantly clear. And lovely wife will be holding down the fort, which these days means reattaching the plastic wrap to the porch reconstruction project after every windstorm. So this is how we end up scattered to the winds.
Remember that first summer away? I had a summer job on the college paper that paid $75 a week for 10 or 12 weeks, and that was plenty to live on. A small crew of us put it out every week, doing absolutely everything: writing, photographing, editing, laying out, pasting up, and delivering. It took about 3-1/2 days out of the week. The other 3-1/2 days were spent in a lazy summer haze. I rode my bike and wore out a pair of flip-flops. I discovered the city pools and parks. After an awful week rooming in the basement of a frat house, I found a beautiful sublet well away from campus with a lovely porch, one roommate who was indifferent to me, and one who couldn't stand me. I scoured garage sales for old vinyl, spent hours and hours writing letters and ridiculous short stories, picked away at a guitar. We "borrowed" the paper's van and went out every weekend to see Next of Kin, playing, most often, at the local Ground Round. I hid from the summer heat in cool darkrooms and pretended I was a photographer. I discovered Jefferson Airplane and the Animals. I drank too much sometimes but it wasn't yet the problem it would become, and that summer everything seemed to be in perfect balance. On top of it all was the easy atmosphere of a college campus in summer, where no one's in too much of a hurry, things are relaxed, and you feel that by being there you own the place more than the kids who come and go with every semester. So I'm hoping the elder one is having that kind of summer.
For that matter, remember that first time going away without your parents? I had several opportunities like that, but the biggest one was essentially a journalism camp held at what would become my college, the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Two weeks away with other kids from all over the state and the country, all in some way into the same interests. It was so exciting . . . in the same day I heard my first authentic Long Island and Texas accents. We worked like dogs putting together a newspaper and a yearbook for the program. We learned writing, composing, and photography. We pulled all-nighters. We listened to "Hotel California" a lot. The thrill of finding others who were in some way like me, of opening up, discovering. It's all so new and wonderful at that age, and I'm so glad the younger one gets to experience it this summer.
Other than that, for the parents, it's a routine week. I try to understand electricity, and Lee comes home from work to put the saran wrap back up on the porch project I left behind.